Following a plant-based diet can provide you with several nutrients one of which happens to be phytonutrients. Plant foods contain myriad naturally-occurring chemicals, called phytonutrients or phytochemicals. “Phyto” refers to the Greek word for plant. These chemicals help protect plants from harmful germs, fungi, bugs, among others that threaten their health.
However, phytonutrients are healthy for humans as well. These chemicals are rich in antioxidant and anti-inflammatory properties that can help support a healthy human body. This means they tackle harmful free radicals that damage tissues throughout our body. There are thousands of phytonutrients found in plants and related foods.
Some of the most common phytonutrients that are present in your food are: carotenoids, ellagic acid, resveratrol, flavonoids, phytoestrogens, and glucosinolates. These phytonutrients can be found in food items like: fruits, vegetables, whole grains, tea, nuts, beans, and spices.
Benefits of phytonutrients:
- Glucosinolates are known to help prevent cancer. This phytonutrient is predominantly present in cruciferous vegetables like cauliflower, broccoli, bok choy, and brussel sprouts.
- They help to eliminate toxins in the body.
- Carotenoids are a type of phytonutrient that is beneficial for eye health and the immunity of our body. These phytochemicals are also known to provide bright yellow, orange, and red colours in fruits and vegetables. Studies suggest that common carotenoids known as lutein and zeaxanthin, are found in the retina and can decrease your risk of developing macular degeneration by 43 percent.
- The types of carotenoids like alpha-carotene, beta-carotene, and beta-cryptoxanthin can be converted into vitamin A by our bodies. Yellow and orange foods like pumpkins and carrots are good sources of alpha- and beta-carotene.
- Consumption of flavonoids, on the other hand, can protect human bodies against cancer and cardiovascular disease.
- These phytonutrients contribute to healthy cell communication and can trigger detoxification, decrease inflammation, and reduce the risk of tumours spreading in the body.
- Include fruits like Strawberries, Raspberries, and Pomegranates in your diet to add Ellagic acid-rich nutrition in your food. Lycopene-rich foods like tomatoes, watermelon, and pink grapefruit is also a good way of including phytochemicals in your diet.
How are you going to include phytochemicals in your diet?